text and collage © 2004 by Jonathan Zap
Editor: Austin Iredale
New Pioneers, oil on canvass, 48″ x 108,” copyright Mark Henson 2010 You can order prints and find out more about his art work at Mark Henson Art
“…there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”
(adapted from The Matrix)
I just came across a college paper I wrote in 1975, when I was seventeen years old, entitled, “Shakespearean Philosophy and the Greenworld.” Referring to Shakespeare’s philosophy I wrote,
“Man was originally designed to live in a completely natural state, in the Garden of Eden or the Golden Age. …. An important concept in considering the levels of nature is the wheel of fortune or the cosmic wheel. …. This lower order of nature is an amoral force that moves in cyclical patterns imitating the movements of the stars. The movement of this amoral force produces not only the cycles of seasons and days, but also in human life, the cycles of prosperity and decline that constitute the wheel of fortune. At the very top of the wheel is the perfect order of the Golden Age and at the bottom is a state of nonbeing or nothingness.”
It seemed almost eerie to find that nearly thirty years ago I was already preoccupied with and writing about the feeling that ours is a fallen time, and that a Golden Age, a greener world than this, is a plane of reality that resonates with both past and future. In Return of the King, Tolkien writes, “Hope and memory shall live still in some hidden valley where the grass is green.”
In Shakespeare’s plays, the “Green World” (a term coined by literary critic Northrope Frye) is a place in the woods where cosmopolitan, neurotic characters go (especially in comedies like A Midsummer’s Night Dream and As You Like It), and genders get swapped through cross-dressing, fairies, elves and visions appear, and somehow the city characters get their psyches and relationships sorted out.
We may experience a similar longing for the Green World via our desires to be out in nature, go on a wilderness sojourn, attend a Rainbow gathering, or experience the realm of Middle Earth through a book or movie (among countless other examples).
We also have a part of our intuition that registers a general wrongness about this world. Hamlet says, “This time is out of joint.” And “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” Some of the most memorable spoken lines of our era are from the first Matrix movie, “There is a splinter in your mind you can’t get out.” and “It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” The Matrix and Tolkien’s mythology share a belief with the ancient Gnostics that the realm we have incarnated in is largely a diabolical deception or intrinsically corrupted plane. Tolkien wrote in his notes, “But nothing, as has been said, utterly avoids the Shadow upon Arda (earth) or is wholly unmarred, so as to proceed unhindered upon its right courses.”
This idea that reality itself is “off” has come to permeate popular culture. A few years ago a movie came out entitled, Reality Bites. Ironically this awful movie embodied the shallow narcissism that is a big part of why this reality bites.
In a letter Tolkien wrote, “…but certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of exile.” When we perceive the darkness of this realm we are not always altogether filled with despair, because we have both past and future memories of another plane of reality. As a character in a fallen world in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series says before falling into an abyss, “Go then, there are other worlds than these.”
A few years ago someone described to me an out of body experience which involved seeing what appeared to be the earth from a disembodied POV out in space. At first they see the earth that we are all familiar with. An eclipse passes and afterwards they see the same planet, but now it is completely green, all signs of human spoilage gone. Two weeks ago in a motel room in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I had an out of body experience and got to experience the Green World for a few seconds. Apparently, Robert Monroe, the pioneer researcher of out of body eperiences has described something similar. Sometimes perceptions that there are other worlds than these comes through a deep perception of wrongness in this reality, a negative implying a positive. I can remember moments growing up in the Bronx and stepping out into hazy, humid air, the sound of jack hammers and sirens, cracked concrete and asphalt, my whole body and being registering that this was a fallen world, a dark possibility amidst an array of parallel alternatives.
Even science now affirms that this is not the only channel offered on the holographic cable television of eleven dimensional superstrings vibrating hyperspatially through the multiverse.
I remember an old New Yorker cartoon that shows an exasperated father fixing a flat tire in the rain while two petulant children stare at him from the car windows. The father is exclaiming, “No, you don’t understand, this is reality, you can’t switch to another channel.” Maybe, maybe not. The father and the kids each have half the perception. We can’t always switch the channel when we want it to, but sometimes we can, and more often the channel switches by itself. In a few hours you will get tired and your incarnation channel will switch to the dreamtime whether you want it to or not, whether you remember or not.
As I discussed in The Mutant versus The Machine and the End of the Iron Age there is reason to speculate that we might be living at the cusp of a great cycle shift, and that a great age of darkness, variously called the fallen world, Kali Yuga, Iron Age, History, or Babylon Matrix is about to shift into a new Golden Age. We may or may not live to experience it in our present bodily forms and ego identities, but then again our present bodily forms and ego identities are largely artifacts of the Matrix. I’m willing to trade mine in for an upgrade when the cycle shifts, and whether it is nuclear armageddon, mutant virus, asteroid, climatic apocalypse, or that SUV I didn’t notice bearing down on me when I cross the street, the reset button will get pressed (with or without eschaton as we have the guaranteed escape hatch called death—-the attribute that, in the Tolkien mythology, made man more blessed than the elves). One way or another the cycle will shift and life will reanimate out of the dark compression of the fallen world.
In Return of the King, Gandalf says to Aragorn as he points out a tree growing out of the snow, “Turn your face from the green world, and look where all seems barren and cold! Yet the life within may then lie sleeping through many long years, and none can foretell the time in which it will awake.”
We may not be able to choose the time of collective rebirth, and intensified darkness will likely precede the dawn, but we can choose whether we are attuned to life channels or death channels. As the Dylan lyric says, “He who’s not busy being born, is busy dying.”
I’ve been noticing bumper stickers saying variations of, “The end of the world is near, look busy.” To surf the tsunami of cataclysmic change, to stay just ahead of the curve, we need to be very busy being born, which also means being busy dying to our denser identifications and false personality structures. I have much more to say about this in, Casting Precious into the Cracks of Doom—Androgny, Alchemy, Evolution, and the One Ring, but here is a brief preview:
Tolkien wrote in a letter, “It is a fallen world, and there is no consonance between our bodies, minds and souls.” This is a dissonance we can begin to heal right now by expanding our awareness. As Aristophanes suggests in Plato’s Symposium, we may once have contained both genders, but in this fallen world our wholeness was shattered and we are (mostly) born into this realm fractured into one gender only. Consequently we tend toward an addictive, voracious hunger for some other type of person that we falsely believe will complete us. We hunger for The Precious, often in the form of The Hottie, and our obsession with obtaining The Hottie can burn holes in our mind and turn us into a wraith. (see Stop the Hottie!)Wholeness can only be found within, where it already exists, as biologically and alchemically we already have masculine and feminine within, yin and yang, and it is through the inner alchemical marriage of yin and yang that we rediscover our wholeness. Tolkien writes in a letter, “This is a fallen world. The dislocation of sex instinct is on of the chief symptoms of the Fall.” Libido, as Jung used the term (not as Freud who confined it to sex) is our life drive. The binding attribute of the Matrix in this time is the powerfully conditioned tendency for our life drive to be subverted, and lost in a focus on
obtaining the external object, “The Precious,” which might be the shiny, new Ford Stomper SUV, money, worldly power or The Hottie. In each case we are caught in the centrifugal pull of our time, spinning us out into the outer darkness while the path of wholeness, empowerment, individuation and love require a centripetal withdrawal of projections onto the world and a rediscovery of our own essence.
Through shadow projection we project our darkness onto the world and blame the general darkness on specific others. Through disconnection with our inner androgyny we project wholeness onto The Hottie and feel we need them to be our savior. A typical case is that of a heterosexual man out of touch with his feminine who sees a beautiful woman and projects his soul on to her and feels he has known her from other lifetimes and that they are destined to be together. Once in a while this projection may be onto an actual soul mate, if so, the unconscious projection will still interfere with establishing an authentic relationship with an actual person. Tolkien, in a letter, writes about young men needing to see women “as companions in shipwreck not guiding stars.”
We don’t need to wait for the golden age to form the gold elixir of alchemy, the liberated spirit body that comes into being when we rediscover our inner wholeness. We can remove the splinter from our mind, even as we continue to incarnate in a splintered world.